Project Britain

History of Tonbridge

by Mandy Barrow

  HOMEPAGE : Guestbook : Tonbridge history 
Invasion of the Saxons


With the breakdown of Rome's control of Britain it became possible for the Angles, Saxons and Jutes from across the North Sea to attack and settle here in Britain. The invasion consisted of a series of attacks on different parts of the country over a period of years and under a number of leaders.

The Jutes settled in Kent and referred to themselves as 'the Kentings', meaning the men of Kent.


The Saxons (Jutes) discovered a good place to cross the river Medway, which was on the main track from Hastings to London.

The Saxons called the river Medway 'Medweg', because the river provided a 'med' (middle) 'weg' (way) through the county of Kent.

The river provided the Saxons with water and fish and also a means of transporting goods to and from other places in Kent and Europe. The forest provided ample timber for building their fort, church and other buildings.

moundThe Saxons might have settled next to the river crossing, where the castle is today. They may have built a fort on top of a large mound on the banks of the river Medway next to the crossing. (There has been no archaeological evidence to support this theory, however, we know from other Saxon settlements that forts were built on high ground.)

Saxon Church

The Saxons built a place of worship on the site of the present day church of St. Peters. This first church would have been made of wood.

Saxon Church as it might have looked

Saxon Village

Saxon villages were usually surrounded by a strong, wooden fence to keep out raiders and wild animals. Inside the fence was a mixture of houses, huts, barns and workshops.

The houses in the village were often built in small groups. Each group probably belonged to one family. At the centre of each group of houses was a larger building known as the hall.

Saxon Hall
A Saxon Hall


Saxon houses were simple rectangular houses made from wood. Some houses had walls made with wattle (woven sticks) and daub (clay) whilst others had walls made from split wooden planks.

Saxon houses as they might have looked

The houses had a fire which was used for cooking, heating and providing light.

Animals were kept inside the houses for meat for the family of the house to eat. To separate the animals from the people, there was a low wall or thin wooden screen between them.

How do you think we know what a Saxon house looked like?

An excavated Saxon house

Life was very hard, few adults lived past the age of forty, and few mothers had more than two surviving children.

Why might the Saxons (Jutes) have choosen to settle at Tonbridge?

  1. There was food from wild animals living in the woods and fish in the river.
  2. The trees provided fuel for a fire for warmth and cooking.
  3. There was a place to cross the river .
  4. The place was on a main track from Hastings and Rye to London.
  5. The river was important for transporting goods to other parts of Kent and Europe.
  6. There was plenty of wood for buildings.

Click here to read more about the Saxons

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